Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (Writer)
Frances Ellen Watkins Harper (1825-1911) was born in Baltimore, Maryland and orphaned at the age of 3. She was then raised by her maternal aunt and uncle.
Frances was much influenced by her uncle as the Reverend Watkins was a civil rights activist and abolitionist as well as a Methodist minister and founder of the Watkins Academy for Negro Youth.
Frances took up paid work as a 13-year-old; she read and wrote in her spare time. She began publishing poems in anti-slavery journals in 1839. Her first collection of poetry was published in 1845, when she was only 20 years of age, making Francis Watkins one of the first African-American women to be published in the USA.
In 1850, Frances moved to Columbus, Ohio to teach (domestic science) at Union Seminary. She was the first female teacher at the school.
3 years later, Watkins joined the American Anti-Slavery Society and gave many speeches while travelling for 8 years nationally and in Canada. She also wrote for anti-slavery newspapers—and for some she is the ‘mother’ of African American journalism—while helping slaves escape via the Underground Railroad. Watkins - who married Fenton Harper in 1860 - also became involved in the women's rights and temperance movements. She published her first (of three) novels in 1869.